ANAIS MAVIEL, The Voice of Change Has Flown In
Singers in the “downtown” purview of New Music face a formidable challenge; vocalists have been embattled in both maintaining a consistent audience and simply being heard above the fray. While some have been highly valued through the decades, this genre has largely been led by saxophonists, screaming improvisers who stand out in front of rumbling rhythm sections and, depending upon the circle and time period, perhaps a bank of electronics, a line of percussionists or multi-media collaborators. Often, it gets pretty loud as the temperature on stage rises.
But Anais Maviel seeks out the quietude between tacits. There she shines and elevates not only the moment, but the performance itself. I first encountered Anais, several years ago (in my capacity as a performing musician) when she sat in on an ABC No Rio performance of the duet I share with trumpeter Matt Lavelle. “Man, she’s from Paris, and she’s like the air, like the wind”, was his initial explanation. Like the air and wind? How could any adventurous artist resist?
Without a shred of rehearsal beforehand, Anais jumped in on “Round Midnight”, adding a free soprano vocalization to this classic, forging something other out of whatever I may have expected. Her voice flowed over the liberties Matt and I were taking with Monk’s composition, threading through our expansions of time and tonality with an ease one doesn’t usually associate with any vocalist. Even more uniquely, Anais soared the stratosphere at pianissimo, offering vocal visualizations of the cool shadows of Thelonious’ eternal night music. And then, without warning, she slid deep into contralto, dangling over the area only Sarah Vaughn had dared to actually revel in.
Hailing from France but born of a Haitian mother, Maviel studied her craft both in Paris Diderot University (where she wrote a thesis on the very downtown Vision Festival) and on stage at family music gatherings, seeking out a new sound. Her’s is a music comprised of both the staccato pulsations and revolutionary culture of Haiti as well as the swinging, varied history and legacy of Parisian jazz. There is something of Josephine Baker in her sleek frame and compelling voice. And yet, this would not do justice to Maviel’s avant garde spirit.
The singer champions the struggle for “utopian alternative politics of change”, whether this is featured in the lyric or heard only through the contour of her vocalizations. It’s all boundless, it all wreaks of a certain pride and pure expression. The strains of some sort of distant gospel music emerge, traversing a range from high soprano, down deep, before morphing into scat and long, lustrous lines of melody. Her voice, cutting through a line of horns or an onslaught of free jazz drumming, is a reckoning for every singer who’s been unable to secure a space onstage.
AFTER LANDING ON THESE SHORES, Maviel quickly came to the attention of some of New York’s leading jazz composers and band leaders including William Parker and his circle of Visionaries. Attention came quickly and these days she is a member of not only Parker’s projects but is the featured voice-improviser with Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses Orchestra, in addition to an assortment of other gigs. The power of this voice in such large bands becomes clear as it sails beyond the tumult below.The Lavelle band’s debut CD, just released on Unseen Rain Records, is available through http://www.unseenrainrecords.com/?product=solidarity-matt-lavelles-12-houses-limited-edition-cd
Most recently Anais has incorporated tradition West Indian and African percussion into her solo performances and this can be heard to excellent effect on her fascinating new album, “Houle” (hear excerpts on her SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/ana-s-maviel/sets/h-o-u-l-e). Here, both voice and percussion skitter, attack, flow and propel through the rich tapestry of world, perhaps multi-world sounds.------------------------------
For more information and for music videos of Anais Maviel’s brave new vocal landscape, visit her website: http://www.anaismaviel.com/